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You never know when it might happen. Tempers flare. Maybe it is the temper of one of your players, or maybe it is the opponent. But sooner or later, if you coach long enough, you're going to find yourself on the sideline of an explosive situation in which the benches start to empty and a brawl ensues.
How will you handle yourself? How will your team handle themselves? What is your responsibility? Has your team ever practiced this? Preparing plans in case of a brawl doesn't mean you condone those actions, but that you're putting forethought into the safety of your players and coaches. It's a very good thing to do. 1. Practice everything
The best programs out there practice everything, including a brawl. You've got to explain and teach your team that it is OK not to fight. A lot of customs and culture tell us to have each other's back. We even teach this to our team, in many different ways.
And yes, you've got to make sure to protect your own.
You've got to teach the difference to your team between fighting and protecting your teammates. There is a big difference. Teach what retaliation is, and what pulling a teammate away from a fight looks like. You've got to teach this, and you've got to practice this so that when the time comes, your team will be prepared, and will handle themselves correctly. 2. Get to your own sidelines.
As long as the fight is happening somewhere on the field, or on the other sideline, teach your team to get to your own sideline as quickly as possible. Again, practice this scenario from a variety of places on the field. Create a fight scenario during practice. Maybe even one where only a couple of players know. Make sure everyone not involved, gets too the sideline immediately.
3. Everyone should take a knee
This will help to differentiate those who are active in the fight, and those who are not.
There is no doubt that the state's governing body is going to find film, if this is a serious enough fight. And they will use that film to warrant out discipline. Teach your team to take a knee immediately upon the commands of your coaching staff. No matter where they are on the field, or the sidelines, take a knee. 4. Each coach on the staff should have a role
Some coaches should be assigned to get to the fight immediately. Some should be assigned to keep your players on your own sideline and on a knee immediately.
If you don't go through these kind of assignments ahead of time, your staff will usually end up all running out to the area of the fight, which leaves your own players exposed to leaving the bench area because there is nobody there to stop them, or give them direction.
Coaches should step out to about the hash marks, and turn around to their own benches to keep all of their players contained to their sidelines. They've got to do this aggressively and quickly.
Review this plan with your administrators, and assign each of them something as well.
Don't forget to cover your response to a bench clearing brawl with anyone who is regularly on your sidelines: ball boys, team managers, stat girls, equipment people, etc. Everyone should be trained as to what to expect in order to keep your team out of trouble, and to keep everyone as safe as possible should something, unfortunately, happen. Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.